Christie Wyman’s Poetry Ponderings class began this week. We explored the functional, flexible, and fun list poem. The varieties are endless. My thoughts were drawn to my sisters. Our parents are gone and as we are getting older now, we depend on each other in new ways. We have an older brother, but he has always lived far away. The three of us live within 30 minutes of each other and are very grateful.
A sister can be…
a partner for jumprope an opponent for games a cheerleader a joker at the table an alto in the choir an accompanist extraordinaire a maker of beautiful things sewn, knitted, or embroidered a friend a companion on walks a sharer of stories a potato salad making wizard an appreciator a “Faithful Fretter” when things are hard a recommender of books a constant in times of change
I have been out of the habit of attending the 4th of July fireworks in my town even though we live just up the street from where they are presented. It started when I had a child who could not bear the sensory overload of flashing lights and booming sound. Later, it was I who could not bear the mosquitos and crowds. And then, there was often a grandbaby to stay with that made it easy for me not to go. But this year, on Sunday, the 4th of July, I was coaxed into going.
“It’s just down the street. You can go home if you need to, but come!”
I sat on a neighbor’s concrete driveway and waited until dark. I looked up and saw splendor I had forgotten. The lights, colors, booms, and thrill of not knowing what would come next. I tried to pay attention and be present this year. (We have been through a lot as a nation, and it seems more has been criticized than celebrated.) But, that’s an essay for another time. Instead, here is my poem to try to capture some of the experience I had celebrating our America.
Spirals of fiery light
Shoot toward the stars.
A ball of light bursts into luminescent spokes
Tipped with red, white, and blue.
Colored bits of light fall like confetti and disappear,
Leaving spider veins of smoke etched on the night sky.
A ball of light surges upward again and again,
Erupting to rain fronds of sparkling weeping willow boughs.
Glittered fire-anemones briefly kiss the sky
Like celestial Queen Anne’s Lace.
It’s a wonder to consider
what gave man the desire to send earthly joy to
the glories of the night sky–even if just for a moment.
I have read this term before, but it wasn’t until last night that I got to learn more about it. It was our last class with Georgia Heard in this series of classes. She taught us that Ars Poetica is a term for a poem that is a meditation on the art of poetry, the poet’s beliefs about poetry, where poems are found, or what poetry could be in an individual’s life. This form of poetry dates back to Horace in 65 B.C.E. and has been part of poetic literature ever since. We read Ars Poetica by Pablo Neruda, Lucille Clifton, Jose Olivares, and Georgia Heard.
I am a beginner on this road; a novice at poetic forms and techniques; an emerging reader and writer of poems. I’m enjoying being a learner and am trying new things in my writing. This community has contributed to my having courage to do this.
Georgia gave us an exercise which I will share. Perhaps your students would take these questions and create something truly wonderful.
What kind of animal is your inner poet?
Who does your inner poet speak to?
What does your inner poet say?
In our group, these were the animals chosen: lion, spider, wolf, owl, haw, doe, deer, sparrow, striped bumblebee, and hummingbird. It was remarkable that there was so much variety. We did it as a quick write in the moment. Here is what I wrote last night. It is a DRAFT, at best, but I share it to give you an idea of something you might try.
My inner poet is a great blue heron standing still in hidden wetlands.
It speaks to the tides flowing in and out. It speaks to quiet souls who weep.
It says, Be patient. Wait for the miracle. Watch and wait.
As a music student, I was introduced to the concept of musical forms such as the sonata, fugue, or symphony. My teacher felt that a study of form across disciplines plus a study of how to listen would provide a deep education for anyone who pursued that path. I became a better listener of music when I knew more about form.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and I am back in the study of form. This time poetic form. My task this week was to write a poem in a form created by Marilyn Singer called a Reverso. You can read about the form and her poetry here. I have struggled to write such a poem, but I did learn a practice technique that helped me.
First, draft your thoughts.
Next, write words, phrases, or sentences on strips of paper (1 line of poetry per strip).
Then, play with the strips. Change the sequence or tear it in half to make two lines. Discard unnecessary language. Add necessary language or revised language.
Finally, decide on the order that becomes the poem you want to write.
My poem-draft is too rough to share here, but below is a picture of my workspace. This practice technique took away some of the frustration and fear associated with writing a reverso. Maybe it will help you or your students with their poetry!
For many of us, Zoom and similar platforms have been a blessing and a curse. For me, Zoom has been mostly a blessing which has allowed me to make new friends and stay in touch with family.
The chat function is an interesting feature. It can enhance what it being said; it can hold questions; it can provide humorous asides (or snarky comments); it can provide links for further study. In my experience with my writers group at TeachWrite, the chat does all of these things. Sometimes, serendipitous things happen.
One night, a group member was listing her writing goals for the week and ended with “and a partridge in a pear tree.” We all laughed. Next up, the science teacher. He listed his goals, but shook his head when others tried to add the partridge to his list. A chat opportunity opened!
I started with “A falcon in a fir tree?” Someone else followed with “An owl in an oak tree?” Then, “A sparrow in a spruce?” And, “A cardinal in a conifer?”
I realized in that moment, my community of writers had extemporaneously collaborated on a small poem-ish text. It was a moment of happiness for me. I felt I belonged.